Bob Malloy’s record-setting run on a Top Fuel Harley was a clear case of the elements of the wedding adage being a perfect fit – like a glove.
You know the one: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Bit by bit, here it is:
Something old: Malloy’s bike. More about that in a minute.
Something new: A 6.096-second NHRA record for the Top Fuel Harley class.
Something borrowed: Glue. Really.
Something blue: Malloy’s high-gear-only bike.
“I knew it was good,” Malloy said of his first-round blast at the U.S. Nationals, “but I didn’t know it was that good.
Few outside of Malloy, 62, and his small cadre of helpers could’ve seen the record-setting run coming. He hadn’t come close to running in the six-ohs in qualifying, but come Sunday morning, he unleashed the quickest Top Fuel Harley run ever and left his opponent, Ryan Peery, far behind. Malloy’s run eclipsed the mark of 6.101 set in early 2019 at Gainesville, Fla., by Tak Shigematsu.
The U.S. Nationals was Malloy’s first race of 2020. Malloy, from Media, Pa., had prepared for the event a week earlier by making three half-track passes at his homestate Numidia Dragway.
His qualifying attempts at Indy began with Friday’s early shutoff, 10.65-second pass. He stepped up Saturday with a 6.45 shot, but at only 201 mph. In the final session, Malloy covered the quarter-mile at 6.46, 204, that put him fifth in an eight-bike eliminator field.
The issues in qualifying weren’t completely related to the bike’s tune-up, but by something most unusual — and perhaps the last thing you’d think of as part of the entire package of man and machine.
“Believe it or not, I had new gloves and my hand kept slipping on the throttle,” Malloy said.
OK, so …?
“I thought it did it the first run, and by the third run I knew it did. I went over … and got glue and sprayed my glove,” he added. “That was clearly the difference because we didn’t make many changes from Saturday to Sunday.”
So with a literal better grip on the situation, Malloy headed to the line for eliminations on his bike, a 2004 piece built by Mike Morris equipped with a 194 cubic-inch engine. At the flash of the green, Malloy rocketed off the line and carried the front wheel well off the pavement past the half-track mark. At the finish line, the timers for his lane stopped at 6.096, 216.86. Peery lost by a wide margin despite running 6.358, 220.66, or a tenth of a second quicker than Malloy’s best in qualifying.
“We’ve been running low numbers that were phenomenal for a few years,” Malloy said. “We’ve been trying to get the back half of the track better and still have a ways to go, but we made good strides last year. We just keep working with that.
“It wasn’t a fluke because it ran 3.95 through eighth-mile a couple of years ago, and it only went 3.99 to the eighth at Indy on that run — but we got the back half better. I’ve been 3.95, 3.97, 3.98, 3.99, so it wasn’t a one-shot deal. We just keep trying stuff to get it to run further down the racetrack. Even on the 6.09 run, it put the front (cylinder) out at 5.7 seconds.
“When we started (racing Top Fuel), we’d run 1,000 feet to the finish in about 1.3 seconds,” he continued. “Right now, we’re down around one second. We’ve been chipping away at it, chipping away at it, chipping away at it, trying to make it better, and it’s responding. We just aren’t there yet completely. It’ll go quicker; don’t know how much quicker. It might go a 6.05 on a perfect run right now. I certainly don’t think it’ll run 5.99 yet, but it’s close, y’know?”
Malloy didn’t get much of a chance to find out if he could better his still-fresh record. In a second-round showdown with Jay Turner, Malloy smoked the rear tire on the launch and rolled to a stop.
“The tire was just worn out,” he explained. “It was a tire I had on there from last year, and I was pushing it and (the tune-up) was hopped up. In hindsight, we should’ve backed it off because we didn’t need to run another 6.09” since Turner posted a 6.36-second pass. “It is what it is.”
Malloy, who worked for General Motors for 30 years and now works at Boninfante Friction in Yeadon, Pa., put his name in the record book with the help of a small group of buddies and sponsors.
Wayne Morris, who serves as crew chief, is from Pennsylvania. Jeremy Phaup lives in Virginia, and Malloy’s brother Jack resides in Delaware. Boninfante is a sponsor, as are McLeod, NGK and TMS.
Bob Malloy, who said he “has never been down the racetrack in a car in my life,” started racing 45 years ago at age 17. He has raced Top Fuel Harleys since 1995 after years on Japanese-brand bikes of all varieties. In 2004, he purchased two chassises from Morris, one of which Malloy is “trying to get done” for next year.
“It’s crazy because I have the oldest bike out there, for sure. It’s got a lot of runs on it,” he said. “When I built it, everybody was having trouble with transmissions. I race out of my pocket, so I put a jackshaft in it instead of a transmission, and it’s been high-gear only since Day One.”
Even if he does put the current bike aside next season in favor of the other, Malloy has learned a ton he will apply to the unfinished chassis.
“For the last three of four years, it’s run really, really good, low numbers. It hasn’t run out the back door until about the middle of last year, when I ran 230 at Topeka, and that was the start of trying to figure it out,” he said.
So Malloy heads to this weekend’s COVID-delayed Gatornationals in Gainesville with the fastest Top Fuel Harley on the planet. Based on the weather forecast, which includes highs in the upper 80s, he may get just one shot to run quicker than the new 6.096-second standard.
“I’ve backed it off a little bit because I put a new tire on it,” he said. “Friday night will probably be the best conditions that we’re going to have, but we can’t take a chance with a new tire, so I’ve backed it off. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
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